Books on Turkey
Update No: 164 -
Middle East in turmoil
The Turks are naturally astounded at the
turn of events in the Middle East of late.
Their reaction is mixed. On the one hand
they welcome the trend towards democracy,
which they have pioneered themselves in
the region. But they are scared that
religious fanatics could come to the fore.
The worst-case scenario is if this
happened in Egypt, with a government
coming to power bent on renewing strife
The Turks are for keeping right out of
Middle Eastern conflicts; their parliament
refused their closest military ally, the
US, any assistance in the Gulf War, a
decision that looks the wiser, the longer
it goes on. The Israelis would of course
give the Egyptians a walloping, if they
were so foolish as to invade Israel. This
is unlikely; but a ‘cold peace’ can be a
nasty affair. The peace pact with Israel,
engineered by Kissinger and Sadat in 1973,
is of course a deeply unpopular one in
Egypt. Indeed Sadat paid for it with his
The Turkish government is itself religious
in persuasion, but of a moderate kind. It
would not be happy to see a Sunni Khomeini
come to power in Cairo.
Erdogan in Ukraine
The Turks are looking northwards as well
as southwards. There they see more
hopeful, less fraught, opportunities.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan travelled to Ukraine on an
official trip on January 24 and 25. He met
with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych
and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.
Erdogan and Yanukovych signed a Joint
Declaration for the establishment of a
High Level Strategic Council between the
two countries. Prime Minister Erdogan also
participated in a meeting of the
Turkish-Ukrainian Business Council in Kiev
on January 25.
Does the EU beckon?
It is in a way curious that the Turks
should so covet entry into the European
Union (EU); but they do. Some of the most
successful countries in Europe, Norway and
Switzerland, have resolutely kept out of
it. Yet nobody doubts for a moment that
the original home of the Vikings, who were
to conquer Normandy, England, Sicily and
more, plus the Swiss pioneers of
representative government and liberal
democracy, (before even the English), are
This is not so for the Turks, only 5% of
whose territory is in Europe and whose
initial historical identity, as the leader
of the Islamic world, was forged against
Europe in the Middle Ages, indeed right up
to the Young Turks just before and during
the First World War, in which Turkey sided
with the autocratic imperial powers of
But here is the rub. Out of that conflict
came a final showdown between the Turks,
led by Ataturk, the veteran of the Young
Turks and Gallipoli, and the West, the
victors of it, in the shape of an allied
(Greek) expeditionary force in 1922,
really seeking some territorial reward for
having been on the winning side. The
Turks, against the odds, won, as they had
done at Gallipoli. Ataturk promptly
adapted Turkey to the West, the clearest
case in history of being transfigured by
your enemy, whom you greatly respect.
Ataturk certainly transformed his country.
He made it Western, introducing the most
radical reforms in an Islamicist nation
ever. Democracy, liberal rights, freedom
of opinion all came onto the agenda. He
should forever be remembered as a great
reformer and pioneer.
He is; and this is why the Turks have
turned so pro-EU.
They see membership thereof as
confirmation of their status as Western.
They are right. All those of good will
should support the Turkish cause. The
Turks would add to the EU approach to
dealing with the Middle East in its
present crisis; who can doubt it? They are
the supreme exemplars of combining and
refining a rapprochement between East and
They are the ideal interlocutors at
present between the West and the turbulent
Speaking on Turkish private TV channel "Bugun
TV" on Thursday, Egemen Bagis said that as
the Turkish chief negotiator, he would not
let Turkey, a very strategic country, be
pushed around by some EU member states.
We have taken highly important steps since
I took office, in harmonizing Turkey to
the EU criteria. 27 new laws and around
200 regulations were adopted vis-a-vis the
EU in Turkey, Bagis said.
Out of 33 chapters, 13 have been opened to
negotiations with Turkey. Had there been
no political obstacles, 29 chapters could
have been opened to negotiations as Turkey
made the necessary reforms, Bagis said.
“Turkey is now a more democratic, more
rich and a more transparent country.
Europe's interests make it a necessity for
Europe to display respect to Turkey which
it deserves”, Bagis also said.